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From Clean Tech to CleanWeb

Services that let people rent out their apartments and cars are at the forefront of the CleanWeb movement, but eBay is the granddaddy.

Web technologies are not only letting people telecommute and cutting down on paper--thus reducing greenhouse emissions and saving trees--they're also letting us get more efficient use out of buildings, cars, and everyday objects.

That's according to Sunil Paul, founder of Spring Ventures, who spoke at the GreenNet conference yesterday about how the so-called "CleanWeb" can enable services that reduce the carbon footprint of our lifestyles.

What is the CleanWeb? It's "the idea that information technology is going to be the next big driver of clean-tech innovation and the proposition that IT is going to prove as valuable as the application of materials and nanotech and biotech to this resource constrained world," Paul said.

For instance, sites like Airbnb let people rent out rooms, apartments, or houses on a short-term basis to strangers who otherwise might have to book a hotel room, reducing the need for large buildings that Paul says are the largest users of energy in the world.

Airbnb has booked 2 million nights globally since 2008--the equivalent of the largest hotel in the world being fully booked for one year, he said.

The granddaddy of the CleanWeb is eBay, he says in a post on his blog.

Another prime area for CleanWeb innovation is transportation. "There are a wave of companies trying to make more efficient use of your vehicle by sharing it with others," including Spride, Paul said. (His firm is an investor in Spride.) And mobile applications for these services put a car at your fingertips.

People can now get around cities without having a car "because you are able to coordinate all your transportation through one device," he said. "If there is a symbol of CleanWeb's opportunity it is the cell phone."